November 16, 2006

Obviously what Abizaid really needs to do is an online chat

Hi folks. You may have noticed I've been neglecting this blog recently. I did warn you that was going to happen when I got into crunch mode on the book. But since I don't want to totally abandon you for the next few months, I'm instituting a new policy. Normally I like my posts to be well thought-out, heavily linked, illustrated and at least 75 percent properly spelled. But since all that takes time, I'm now just gonna throw shit up as it comes to me, just to keep the content flowing. I mean, I don't really need to link to every news article I refer to, right? It's not like you can't find it if necessary.

For instance, I wanna know why all those smarty-pants senators never seem to ask the obvious question of experts like Gen. Abizaid who insist that we can't withdraw from Iraq until the Iraqi army is prepared to quell sectarian violence on its own. Here's my question. it's in two parts.

Will the Iraqi army ever be so well trained and equipped that it is stronger and more capable than the US military? If not, why are we even pretending that it's someday going to be able to do what we've spent three years failing to?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


It's a reasonable question, except I think it underestimates two factors:

(1) To say that the Iraqi would need to be as well-equipped and more capable than the US military is to imply that the US military has been as well-equipped and capable as the US military. Which overlooks the fact that our military's own capabilities have been severely handicapped by the constant catastrophic missteps in policy and strategy under the Commander in Chief and his Defense Secretary.

That we've been so unable to quell the violence in Iraq has more to do, I think, with our own miserably unfocused idiocy that with the challenges being insurmountable. For instance, if we hadn't so vastly underestimated the level of troop commitment required, we would have had a chance to create a consistent presence of security -- rather than constantly resetting ourselves, leaving Iraqi police to be slaughtered by the insurgents that fill a region every time we're forced to leave, and generally losing the trust and respect of everyone in the country. Plus various other failures in leadership, vis a vis diplomacy, infrastructure, torturing, raping, etc etc etc. I'm not a military expert, by any means, but it's hard for me to conceive of how we could have been any less capable.

(2) Home-field advantage. The Iraqi army has a much better chance of gaining the respect of local communities than even we did before we totally blew it. The degree to which communication and confidence can be instrumental to the success of this kind of urban conflict shouldn't be overlooked.

Of course, as to whether we're having any success in the training and equipping of the Iraqi army, I have no idea. Suffice to say, we're probably screwing it up somehow.

Maybe if anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican, had a real interest in understanding the complexities and nuances of the war, rather than political posturing (or maybe if journalists weren't largely high on meth or whatever it is they're doing), they'd be asking the questions worth asking. I mean, not that it's not totally generous of everyone to leave that shit for bloggers, it really helps t-shirt sales.

Good points.

1) I guess I was including all that in the "capable" department. Since we've already seen the Iraqi army using their new training to set up torture chambers, I don't see it rising above Rumsfeldian levels once we leave.

2) Isn't this the argument for immediate withdrawal? That what the Iraqis most need to end the violence is not our assistance but our absence? I was going to discuss that in my post, but it opens up a whole can of worms I'm not prepared to cook and eat right now. I mean, I kind of suspect it's wishful thinking -- but probably still a better gamble than what we're doing now.

Also good points.

1) I'd like to think that things are going to get better now that Rumsfeld is gone. I don't have any actual justification for that, I just like to think it. Because otherwise the only option is binge drinking. Or moving to Iceland, can't we all just move to Iceland? I hear it's a great time over there.

2) Given the aforementioned Rumsfeldian levels, I'm unconvinced that now is a good time to leave. Home-field advantage is a powerful thing, but it doesn't make that much difference if your team was just called up from the AA Portland Sea Dogs. I do believe -- and I believe/hope to God it's not just wishful thinking -- that we can not only do a better job of training their army, but also just a moderately better job of managing our own, to the point that we could leave with the country in a better state than it is now.

I think we need to clean up Bush's mess, both as a matter of reality and perception, because if we just withdraw, we look as irresponsible and ignorant exiting as we did entering. And I could be totally wrong on all that (so if anyone would care to point me in the direction of arguments/articles/historical precendence/whatever that contradict me, I'd be more than glad to read them). But to this point, I remain unconvinced by the Johns Murtha and Kerry.

3) As I understand it, the Iraqi army has just signed an exclusive contract with the Weinsteins.

if anyone would care to point me in the direction of arguments/articles/historical precendence/whatever that contradict me

Over to your left you'll see an Amazon link for a book called Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. Although Amazon seems to think it was written by Howard Zinn, it's actually be a very good friend of mine named Anthony Arnove, and it makes the case that nothing could possibly be worse than staying in, because no conceivable US government is ever going to act in Iraq's best interests.

I have to admit that I was not entirely persuaded by Anthony's arguments but it'll give you something to chew over at least.

I've basically reached a point where the burden of justification has shifted to anyone arguing against withdrawal. Too often calls for withdrawal are met with demands to explain how such a thing can be done without everything falling to shit. But I think that withdrawal has become the obvious choice and that if someone says it's not, it's up to them to explain how we can STAY IN without everything falling to shit. And I mean I want to hear specific plans. I am still open to hearing those plans, but it's no longer enough to tell me that things might get worse if we withdraw.

A belated thanks for the recommendation. I'll check the book out.

On a related note, I'm impressed with your pre-emptively targeted marketing. Between Arnove's book and the latest issue of The Week, you're putting Google to shame with your abilities to extract profit from my curiosity. Kudos.

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